Building Blogs of Science

Kiwi foo’s eye view of Open Science

Posted in Health and Medicine, Science, Science and Society by kubke on February 13, 2012

I just came back from another amazing kiwi foo. I have talked about it before, so I will not bore you with the details of what kiwi foo is all about. This time, unlike other years, I went with a very focused view of what I wanted to achieve. And it was as stimulating as ever.

Over the past year, I have gone into a rather quiet reflexion of what ‘open science’ is and how to make it work. I have become increasingly frustrated with a model of science that increasingly rewards self-promotion rather than knowledge sharing. And the emerging theme of my reflexion was ‘context’.

If we want a ‘global’ open science, the formula for adoption needs to be able to adapt to local personal, institutional, social, political, economical and legislative contexts. I may be wrong, but I think many of us who support open science struggle at times with how to make it work in the particular contexts in which we need to operate.

As I was struggling with the frustration of the commodification of science over the past two years, I started thinking about the open source community.  I can’t blame universities for encouraging scientists  to produce revenue at a time when public funding for education are research appear to be in constant decline. So I went to Webstock a year ago to try to learn more about how open source projects generate revenue. After all, their business models are built around giving their ‘product’ away for free, something that is well aligned with the ethos of science. One of my highlights at kiwi foo was a conversation with Don Christie from CatalystIT, a company that produces high quality open source software. I am looking forward to continuing this conversation and exploring how these business models can be adapted to the different demands and constraints for science. I got a lot of insight from him, and am hoping he and people like him can help us move forward.

On the second day (or rather the first long day) there were a few sessions that centered around science. Great things came out of it, and it would be impossible to name everyone that provided insight. Nick Jones, Leonie Hayes, Alex Holcombe , Alison Stringer and I partnered in crime and ran a couple of sessions where we hashed a few issues around. I personally wanted to explore what Open Science meant in the New Zealand / Australia context (I can’t speak for the others’ motivations!).  I think that the local context in NZ/OZ is slightly different than in the Northern hemisphere and there are some things that differentiate this region. Perhaps we can/should capitalise on that.

For example, you will never see a ‘Research Works Act’ bill here, because we don’t seem to have Open Access mandates. Instead, we have NZGOAL and AUSGOAL which are frameworks for data licencing. The Australians have ANDS and NZ has eResearch, all focused on the data. Tim O’Reilly mentioned the PantonPrinciples  in this context – but the Panton Principles (which I have personally endoresed) cannot be exported ‘as is’ to Australia and New Zealand because neither Creative Commons AotearoaNew Zealand nor CCAustraliahave CC0, for example.  Software hopefully will not be covered by patents is covered by copyright (not patents) in NZ*, so maybe we can capitalise on that to develop tools for open science. New Zealand has a Treaty of Waitangi, and any local open science needs to respect and work constructively to meet our treaty obligations. Lets add to that, that different research groups are going to be subject to obligations related to the international treaties their countries have signed up to. We all have different copyright restrictions and freedoms, we have different systems that determine how to assign funding, and different mandates and guidelines, and are at different points of our careers with different job securities.

So, how do we make open science work within these diverse contexts? We can all agree on the philosophy, but perhaps we need to also agree that the implementation will take different shapes. I think wee need to continue the global conversation and continue to support each other, but we also need to start working locally in smaller groups to ‘make things happen’. And the battles we choose to fight perhaps should be aligned with local contexts so that we can each capitalise on our strengths. I loved having this dialogue at kiwi foo, getting great insights from a diverse group, and mainly feeling that this is something for which we have support.

The rest of the things that happened at kiwi foo will slowly seep into future posts.

I would really like to thank Jenine, Nat Torkington and Russell Brown for putting kiwi foo together (and inviting me!), my partners in crime Alex, Nick, Alison, and Leonie for their hard work on the sessions, all the attendees for their contributions and especially Tim O’Reilly for providing us with valuable insights. You all have complicated my life, but I look forward to a 2012 of hard work and of ‘making things happen’.


*Edited on 16/2/2012 to reflect the correction made by @kayakr (thanks for that!). I was thinking of this bill: (which is probably the one that @kayakr refers to as pending legislation)